How to curate an eco-friendly capsule wardrobe
Simplify & Slow Down,  Sustainable Fashion

How to Curate an Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes are like AirPods:  if you don’t have one by now, you probably don’t want one.  

What I mean by this is capsule wardrobes have been around for a long time and resurface as a trending topic every once in a while.  If you haven’t had any interest in a capsule wardrobe before now- that’s ok!  There’s still time to learn and benefit.  

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. I only link to products I have personally used or researched.

What is a capsule wardrobe? 

A capsule wardrobe is a small, carefully curated, collection of clothes that can be mixed and matched to create outfits.  These outfits need to serve a multitude of purposes across your lifestyle.  

Capsule wardrobes are not made overnight.  This can take time to build up your basics and find high-quality options that are specific to your style.  

Benefits of a capsule wardrobe

If you missed last week’s post about Minimalism and Fashion, click here for How to Embrace a Wardrobe with Less.  

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Here are the main points: 

  • Visual clutter gives way to peace and calm when you only have your favorite pieces in your closet
  • Fewer choices mean no more decision fatigue so you can put your energy toward more important things
  • With fewer clothes, we take care of what we have better and have more respect for each piece.  We can also purchase higher quality clothing because we are purchasing less overall.

What makes clothing eco-friendly? 

Eco-friendly and sustainable fashion

Eco-friendly and sustainable are often used interchangeably.  But we can look at this from a few different angles:  the material used to make the clothing, the business practices of the company making the clothing, and how the clothing gets to you.  

Materials

Eco-friendly or sustainable materials are materials that are found in nature or synthetically made from renewable sources.  This can include organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, linen, wool (natural fibers) and Modal, and Lyocell (synthetically made). 

Ethical business practices

Sustainable fashion can be viewed from the lens of a company’s business practices.  Slow fashion is another term for ethical fashion and this is when companies take into consideration the manufacturing process, materials used, and the people’s working environment. 

These business practices are sustainable because they can be kept up over a long period of time.  Unlike the fast fashion industry, which is an environmental nightmare.  (Read more about fast fashion vs. slow fashion here). 

How clothing gets to you

Notice here I did not say how clothing is shipped or packaged, but how it gets to you.  Yes, shipping and packaging can contribute to something being eco-friendly.  However, sustainable clothing can also be hand-me-downs or thrift store finds, or something you took out of storage after a decade. 

What are the benefits of an eco-friendly wardrobe? 

  • We support businesses that care about people and our planet and show that ethical businesses are in demand
  • Sustainable business practices reduce our carbon footprint (amount of greenhouse gasses emitted)
  • Eco-friendly and sustainable materials offer more breathability and higher-quality clothing

Tying it together

Minimalism and sustainability go hand-in-hand in the best ways possible.  Did you know so much good could come from simple wardrobe choices? 

How to curate an eco-friendly capsule wardrobe

Minimize

Step 1:  Pull out everything from your closet, grouping items together (clothes, shoes, jewelry, accessories).  This is going to take up a lot of space and a bit of time, so prepare accordingly.

If you have a super overflowing closet and haven’t decluttered in a while, follow some of the tips in my Minimalist Wardrobe post first to start the process.

Step 2:  If your closet is already well maintained, this is when we go through it with a fine-toothed comb.  Sort each category (clothes, shoes, etc) into piles of  “love” “like” and “indifferent”.  Hopefully, there’s nothing in there you hate. But if that’s the case, get it out now. 

Step 3:  Look for themes in your “love” pile. Is there a dominant color?  Are your favorites patterned or solid?  Is there a particular silhouette you come back to again and again?  Create your capsule wardrobe around this.

Only keep clothing that is most uniquely you

Step 4:  Next, go through your “like” pile.  These will probably be things you know you need, like black leggings, but wouldn’t necessarily be categorized as “love”.  You will need to keep some of these, but you should also let some go without guilt. 

Step 5:  “Indifferent” or “hate” piles should go right to your donation box.  Life is too short to not be emotionally attached to your clothing.  Yeah, I said it.  Clothing should make you feel something.  And if you’re going to make your capsule up of only a limited amount of pieces, you better love them and feel great in them.

Step 6:  Remove seasonally inappropriate clothing and store them somewhere out of your closet.  Do this AFTER you have sorted and minimized so you are not storing things you may never wear again. 

You should be left with a very limited wardrobe with all of your favorite clothes. 

How many pieces should be in my capsule wardrobe? 

The internet says thirty.  But this is in no way a hard rule.  Thirty seems to be the magic number for your everyday capsule wardrobe.  The idea is that there are enough pieces to mix and match, but your closet still stays in order and visually uncluttered.  

Have you ever heard of Project 333? This is a challenge in which you dress with 33 items or less for 3 months including jewelry, clothing, outerwear, shoes, and accessories. Read more about it here.

What if I don’t have enough clothes because I disliked most of my wardrobe?

If you minimized and now realize you don’t have enough things to wear, make a plan.  

First, keep more of your “like” or “indifferent” pile, but don’t let them fully integrate back into your closet.  Just use them for now. 

Next, start a note on your phone with exactly the type of pieces you need for your wardrobe.  Did you donate all but one of your sweaters?  Start looking for ideas of what you would like in a sweater and what would work in your new, minimized wardrobe.  

Lastly, it may take some time but don’t settle.  Browse online, stop at thrift stores, and focus on one new piece at a time.  Once you find it, let go of the lesser version in your current wardrobe.  

P.S. – you can get away with a very pared-down wardrobe.  Did you know that I wore the same dress for 100 days straight?  Read about it here!

Seasonally, what does a capsule wardrobe look like?

If you live in a climate that has very pronounced seasons, you of course will have to make changes in your wardrobe seasonally.  You will most likely be able to keep a lot of staples in your closet and rotate other clothing.  

If you stored seasonally inappropriate clothing away when you first minimized, take it out and sort through it once a quarter.  Add in pieces that you love, feel good, and fit the season.  Remove pieces from your current wardrobe that are not seasonally appropriate and store them away, out of your closet.  

What if I have a lot of workout clothes?

If you have different clothes for different functions in your life, it is 100% okay to have multiple, smaller capsule wardrobes.  

If you work out daily, you probably have acquired a lot of athletic clothes.  Use the same principle to minimize this category and create a mini-capsule wardrobe of your workout wear. 

If you have to dress more formally for work, but opt for casual out-of-office and on weekends, consider having 2 different capsule wardrobes for these purposes.  

How to curate an eco-friendly capsule wardrobe

Tips for conscious consumers 

Now that we know the benefits of a capsule wardrobe and have made an effort to minimize, how do we make this an “eco-friendly” capsule wardrobe?  Great question. 

The most eco-friendly and sustainable thing you can do is use what you already have

Yep.  Use what you have and limit what you need to buy and you’re already ahead of the game. 

If you do need to find a few pieces to round out your wardrobe, shop sustainably by finding hand-me-downs or shopping at thrift stores first.  This can take some time as you wait for the “perfect piece” but that’s okay, right?  It’s just clothes. 

If you really can’t find what you’re looking for second-hand, shop at retailers that promote ethical, sustainable business practices and use eco-friendly materials in their clothing.  

Sustainable and ethical clothing may be a bit more expensive but for good reason.  And if you are cutting out your shopping in favor of a more minimized wardrobe, you won’t be spending unnecessarily on other items.  

You’ll be rewarded with the satisfaction of knowing the people making your clothing have good working conditions and get paid a fair wage and you didn’t help add to the depletion of natural resources. 

Remember, each item that enters your home should be thoughtfully brought in and cohesive to your current wardrobe. 

What my capsule wardrobe would look like using my favorite sustainable company for my basics

My absolute favorite sustainable clothing company is Wool&.  I read their website for fun – not even kidding.  I love their mission and values and that you can trace your clothing back to the farm where the sheep were raised.  How cool is that?  

Their pieces are made primarily from Merino Wool and there are so many benefits to that material.  It is a natural fiber, sustainably sourced. It is super soft and not at all how you picture wool (big, bulky sweaters).  Merino Wool has excellent breathability, anti-bacterial properties, and can even be washed in the washing machine!

Check out all that Wool& has to offer!

My Wool& wishlist pieces (and some I already own!): 

Summit midweight pocket leggings

Wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

Of course, I would start with leggings.  These opaque leggings are made with 68% Ultralight Merino Wool.  Black leggings are for sure a wardrobe staple for me and these can be worn multiple times without having to be washed (huzzah!). 

Wear with:  everything and anything.  A tank, t-shirt, a dress or tunic, a sweater.  Black leggings are the ultimate workhorse of the capsule wardrobe.

Aspen jogger

Wool& Eco Friendly capsule wardrobe

My other choice for bottoms would definitely be joggers.  I know some of you need to wear real clothes to work and stuff, but I don’t!  These are made from 75% Merino Wool for a super comfortable fit. 

Wear with:  a long-line sports bra, a tank, a t-shirt, a hoodie

Summit pocket bike short

wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

These 68% Merino Wool bike shorts (with pockets!) are the perfect length and great for wearing on their own or under dresses.  My bike shorts with pockets get worn a lot in the summer!  And just think of all that breathability and antibacterial properties working on your behalf in these hot months.  

Wear with:  a long-line sports bra, a tank, a t-shirt, a dress, a hoodie, a sweater

Livia 100% wool tank top

Wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

A basic tank is a must to wear on its own or to layer.  This one is 100% Merino Wool, slim-fitted, and comes in perfect, neutral colors. 

Wear with:  bike shorts, jean shorts, leggings, maxi skirt, jeans (jk I don’t own jeans lol)

Charlie tank jumpsuit

Wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

I love a good romper.  LOOOOOVE.  And one made from 78% Merino Wool?  Sign me up!  Perfect for dressing up or lounging around, this is definitely a capsule-worthy piece. 

Wear with:  nothing!  Or pair it with a cute thrifted sweater or jacket

Rowena swing dress

Wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

This is the dress.  THE dress.  The dress I wore for 100 days straight.  I wore it from September through December.  I paired it on its own, with leggings, with big, chunky sweaters, tied up as a shirt, etc. Check out my post all about the 100 day dress challenge here.  It comes in 18 colors and is made from 78% Merino Wool.  

Wear with:  bike shorts, leggings, a sweater, or a light jacket 

Brooklyn wrap dress

Wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

This is a classic Wool& silhouette that comes in two different lengths.  It’s made from 78% Merino Wool and comes in 14 different colors.  This is a fan favorite in the Wool& community.  I could pull this off year-round!

Wear with:  bike shorts, leggings, a sweater, or a light jacket 

Audrey maxi dress

Wool& Eco-Friendly Capsule Wardrobe

Since it’s summer, I’m including this beautiful maxi dress in the mix!  Made from 78% Merino Wool, this is a soft, lightweight dress that I can picture myself wearing in the garden with my sun hat, enjoying a blissful day in nature.  I would probably also wear this throughout the spring and fall months with some additional layers!

Wear with:  bike shorts, leggings (seasonally), a sweater, or a light jacket

My other wardrobe staples

My wardrobe is pretty limited as it is.  There are a few wardrobe staples I mentioned above that I would be lost without. 

Thrifted sweater:  I thrift sweaters like it’s my job.  I don’t keep all of them, but when I find one I like I wear it ALL THE TIME.  My favorite are oversized men’s sweaters in either cashmere or with a super fun print/design. 

T-shirts:  All of my t-shirts are band shirts.  It’s been my go-to since high school, so why change something that’s working haha.  I will often be sporting my myriad of Grateful Dead shirts, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, or Elton John.  

Long-line sports bras:  I wear these almost every day, either as a regular bra under shirts and dresses or on its own.  They are super versatile and if you find one that you love and feel good in, get two.  

Jean shorts:  In the summer, the other staple for me is jean shorts.  I only have one pair and I found them at Goodwill right before traveling to Mexico for vacation.  I didn’t think they would become one of my staple wardrobe items, but here we are!  

A note on shoes and accessories

Capsule wardrobes should extend to shoes and accessories, too.  What’s the point of minimizing and curating your wardrobe if you’re going to have a million shoes, scarves, necklaces, and purses to choose from?

Apply the same principles and minimizing techniques to all your accessories for a truly curated, cohesive capsule wardrobe. 

Eco-friendly capsule wardrobe

Here is a quick summary: 

  1. Minimize and plan your wardrobe around your most loved and uniquely-you items.
  2. Keep a list of clothing items you still need at the ready and refer to it frequently.  Take your time and don’t settle unless you love it. 
  3. Replenish your wardrobe with hand-me-downs, thrifted finds, and purchases from reputable, sustainable companies.
  4. Update your eco-friendly capsule wardrobe quarterly and store seasonally inappropriate items outside of your main wardrobe.
  5. Assess if you need multiple, smaller capsule wardrobes (work vs. casual/weekend, athletic, etc).

Capsule wardrobes can and should evolve.  If a piece of clothing, shoes, or accessories is no longer fitting your lifestyle or you’re not in love with it anymore, pass it on.  Remember, you are responsible for curating your wardrobe.  Be strict and be you.  

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More posts from my fashion series: 

Minimalism and Fashion:  How to Embrace a Wardrobe with Less
How to Shop for Sustainable Clothing on Amazon
Secrets of the 100 Day Dress Challenge
How to Sort Out Fast Vs Slow Fashion
How to Create a Daily Uniform and Save Your Sanity
How to Shop at a Thrift Store:  8 Essential Tips